Get Ready for the New Common App

The Common Application, or more warmly referred to as the Common App, has recently revealed the fourth version of its application. The Common App is known for making the college application process simpler and its upgraded version promises to streamline the application process. Here are some of the key changes:

Streamlined Navigation and Features

  • Essential questions are now “smart” questions or questions that appear only when relevant to the applicant.
  • Onscreen support will appear on screen alongside the question. Students can edit the content they enter as many times as needed (the exception is the essay as noted below).
  • Payment is now integrated with the application so students no longer need to worry about submitting an application but forgetting to pay for it.
  • Students will cut and paste or type directly onto application (not recommended) instead of uploading a document.
  • Students will not be able to upload a resume though some colleges will offer this option on their own pages. Many colleges did not like when students uploaded resumes that contained the same information that appeared on the extracurricular activity page.

    The Common App has adapted many times over the years to fit the needs of the many colleges, universities and students who rely on its services.

“The new format may be easier to read and the smart questions should make it more convenient for the student because they will only be asked questions that pertain to them,” said Kathy Murphy, Dean of Admissions at Assumption College.

New Essay Questions and Word Limits

  • The new essay prompts no longer offer a “Topic of your choice” option and there are strict 250 to 650 word limits. Kathy Murphy says that the new questions may encourage a student to narrow down his focus, which for many young writers is helpful.
  • The essay can be submitted only three times (if you choose to enter your writing directly into the available space – again not recommended) so students should be sure their essay is well edited prior to submitting.
  • Basic formatting will be available for the first time (bold, italics, underlining).

Major Changes to the Supplements

  • The Arts Supplement will now connect directly to SlideRoom, an online portfolio submission site that is typically used by art schools and universities that require portfolios. Some schools may accept art outside of SlideRoom and will provide specific instructions.
  • The Athletic Supplement has been discontinued. Students nay express interest in athletics on the application and it will be made available to coaches at the discretion of the college admission’s office (prospective athletes should be communicating directly with coaches prior to submitting an application).
  • Writing Supplements:
    • Short Activity Essay – The short response asking students to elaborate on an extracurricular activity moves to supplement page and will not be required by all colleges.
    • “Smart” Essay Prompts – Students may see college specific questions relevant to their own academic plans.

More User-Friendly Recommendation Process

  • Teachers can opt to submit recommendations online or opt out of online (if teacher opts out then the student can print recommendation forms from their Common App account and deliver to the teacher).
  • Non-academic recommendations (peers, coaches, clergy, instructors, etc.) can now be submitted online although be aware that many colleges do not want extra recommendations.
  • Recommender’s now answer “smart” questions, which personalize the questions they answer about each student to the student’s experience with the recommender.

The new Common Application goes live on August 1, 2013.

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